Headlines: May 12, 2010
by Meg Larkin
New reports from the CBO say that the Health Reform Law could add $115 billion to government health care spending by 2020. If approved by Congress, the additional spending would be used to fund the administrative costs of implementing the bill, in addition to community health centers and Indian health care. Republicans oppose the increased spending, saying it would eliminate any cost savings achieved by the Health Reform Law.
In other news, genetic testing will be available in drug stores beginning on Friday. The test, developed by Pathway Geonomics, claims to be able to predict the likelihood that customers will develop diseases like breast cancer and Alzheimer’s. The FDA has questioned whether the test is being sold legally because it has not been approved by the Agency, and many bioethicists are concerned about the reliability of test results given the current uncertainty about genetic testing methods. Additionally, the availability of the tests in pharmacies raises some privacy concerns for people undergoing testing. According to the Washington Post, the FDA intends to investigate the genetic tests, which it views as being illegally marketed.
In governmental news, the White House task force on childhood obesity has released its initial report. The report, from the task force led by White House Adviser Melody Barnes, lays out 70 recommendations for combating childhood obesity. As part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move initiative, aims to return the United States to a childhood obesity rate of 5 percent by 2030 from the current rate of 20 percent. The recommendations focus on a variety of factors from food labeling, to stricter regulation of sugars and high fat foods. The report also suggested keeping more children enrolled in summer nutrition programs through their schools so that progress made during the school year is not lost during the summer months. It remains to be seen how the report’s recommendations will be implemented.
In other diet and nutrition news, many people who think they have allergies may be mistaken. According to the New York Times, “A new report, commissioned by the federal government, finds the field is rife with poorly done studies, misdiagnoses and tests that can give misleading results.” While 30 percent of people think they have a food allergy, in reality only about 8 percent of children and 5 percent of adults have food allergies. The paper is based on a survey of existing research on allergies, and has illuminated some problems in methods of testing for allergies. The paper is part of an initiative by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which aims to reduce uncertainty in the field of allergy testing and is expected to release guidelines for diagnosis and management of allergies over the summer.
Finally, a new study in the Hastings Center Report found that compensation offered to potential egg donors is often above industry guidelines. The study continues a long-standing controversy over whether and how much egg donors should be paid. High payments above and beyond the cost of medical expenses may be seen as coercive, and some are concerned that young women may be persuaded by the money to make a choice they will regret. Unlike sperm donation, egg donation is a week-long process that involves treatment with hormones and surgical extraction of the eggs. According to the New York Times, “Fertility clinics, which maintain registries of potential egg donors, tended to observe the guidelines in their ads. Egg donation agencies or brokers, who act as middlemen by linking donors with prospective recipients, were far more likely to advertise the higher payments.” The United States is one of few industrialized nations that continues to allow the use of donated eggs in fertility treatments. The report may be seen as a call for the fertility treatment industry to self-regulate in the area of egg donation before the government feels the need to step in.
Meg Larkin is a law student at Boston University. Please feel free to email her with any comments, questions, suggestions, or concerns.